There’s been more bad news for the Belgian car-making industry with the announcement that around 1,400 jobs are to go at General Motor’s Opel Astra plant in Antwerp. But Klaus Franz of Opel’s Works Council remained happy that no factories in Europe would have to be shut down, as was previously feared: “We achieved our major goal that there will be no plant closure in Europe, and this is I think a very good result also for Antwerp that they will continue as an assembly plant and the discussions and negotiations of the future will be the main content, how much volume there will be after 2010.”
2010 is due to see the launch of the next-generation Astra. Antwerp will play no part in that project. Ellesmere Port in Liverpool is one of the lucky sites that have been given that task, along with plants in Germany, Poland and Sweden. Although GM plans to assemble another model in Antwerp, the plant will lose the equivalent of an entire production shift, about a third of its workforce of around 4,500. Since 2005 GM’s cut around 12,000 jobs in Europe despite Opel’s net profit of 227 million dollars last year. GM is faced with poor sales in its domestic market in the US.